ADZT: ADZT launches "Cries for Justice" documentary

Artists for Democracy in Zimbabwe Trust ADZT this week launched a reverting documentary highlighting the quest for justice by members of the country's rural communities.

The "Cries for Justice" documentary was launched to members of the civic society, donor community and diplomatic community on Thursday, 12 July 2012, afternoon at the Zimbabwe Lawyers for Human Rights (ZLHR) offices.

The 20 minute documentary is part of the organisation's 24 month project on human rights education in rural areas of Zimbabwe.

It highlights people's views on transitional justice, national healing, the constitution making process and elections.

In the documentary people who attended the various meetings held by ADZT spoke of their desire to have elections only after the implementation of the issues agreed in the Global Political Agreement (GPA). Most importantly they highlighted the likelihood of violence breaking out yet again in the next election if issues of national healing and transitional justice are not properly addressed.

Interestingly the launch of the documentary came as parliament was discussing the Zimbabwe Human Rights Commission Bill and the Electoral Amendment Bill. The two bills are crucial in the holding of a free and fair election in Zimbabwe.

Speaking at the launch event, ADZT board member, Gladys Hlatywayo said the documentary represents the voice of the voiceless.

"The documentary carries the voices of people who live in the back of the beyond, the downtrodden members of the Zimbabwean society. These are people who witnessed the worst of the 2008 electoral violence. These are people whose voices are most often never heard," she said.

"But through our unique use of art we have managed to reach out to their communities as an organisation and provide them with that safe platform to air their views and engage in a community conversation aimed at finding solutions to the scourge of violence. As you would know, Zimbabwe is currently struggling to come to terms with effects of violence."

Apart from carrying rural people's views on important national processes, the documentary also highlighted the power of art in galvanizing communities to deal with their difficult and often violent past. ADZT held 48 arts road-shows as part of the programme and artistic genres such as theatre, poetry, dance and music were used to introduce difficult subjects such as transitional justice which would otherwise have been very difficult to talk about.

It also showcases the different strategies that ADZT would use to conduct civic education on elections and other issues of national interest.

Speaking at the launch attended by members of the civic society, donor/diplomatic community, representatives of the Organ on National Healing and Reconciliation and political party youth representatives of the Joint Implementation and Monitoring Committee (JOMIC), Deputy Minister of Justice Honourable Obert Gutu, who was the guest of honour said the documentary was powerful and should be used as an advocacy tool to highlight problems afflicting the country.

"With the parliament currently seized with discussions on the Human Rights Commission Bill and the Electoral Amendment Bill, efforts by organisations such as Artists for Democracy in Zimbabwe Trust can only come in handy and enrich such debates," said Gutu.

"I would like to encourage ADZT and its civic society partners to continue providing that important civic education role because the government cannot do it alone. Your work is an important part of the process of policy formulation," he said.

In post documentary screening discussions, Gutu gave an update on the Electoral Amendment Bill saying the three main political parties in parliament had agreed that the next election will be held used the Ward based system.

There have been concerns of the likelihood of victimisation of voters after an election if the polling station based voting system that had been proposed as part was the amendments was adopted.

Turning onto the Zimbabwe Human Rights Commission Gutu said the parties had agreed to that the commission will only start investigating cases of human rights abuses as from February 13 2009 when the inclusive government started work. This did not down well with some members of the civic society who saw this as an act of letting off the hook perpetrators of violence. This they say would increase the culture of impunity in the country as heinous crimes committed in the past such as the Gukurahundi massacres, Operation Murambatsvina and 2008 post March electoral violence would easily be concealed under the carpet. But Gutu said if the commission works in retrospect no movement towards a new culture of justice and respect for human rights will be realised in Zimbabwe.

Artist for Democracy in Zimbabwe Trust is an organisation which was formed in 2007 at a time when working space for civic society organisations was shrinking due to state restrictions. Its express aim was to open up a new way of bringing civic education to the country's communities using art. Today it has close to 500 working partners around the country. These are made up of community based artists and more established artistic groupings both in urban and rural areas. Most of these partners are dominated by youthful members some of whom have made art their way of life and are working towards capacitating these artists to take up democratic art that promotes social change.

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